Imágenes de páginas

and one in particular, in the market-place of Selkirk, bearing this inscription :

66 ERECTED IN August, 1839,





FROM 1800 TO 1832.

By Yarrow's stream still let me stray,
Though none should guide my feeble way;
Still feel the breeze down Ettricke break,
Although it chill my withered cheek."

Sir Walter Scott is undoubtedly the most remarkable writer that figures in the literary annals of the nineteenth century. As a poet, historian, novelist, and critic, he achieved a lofty reputation; and if his productions in each department are not superior to those of all his contemporaries, they possess merits that entitle them to a high rank. In romantic fiction he is altogether without even a rival. Sir Walter is the true successor of Fielding and Smollett, and to their knowledge of character and deep insight into the human heart, he added a power of describing the magnificent scenery of his native land, and an aptness for historical illustration, peculiarly his own. In this volume are enshrined those poems which first introduced him to the public, and upon which the pillars of his fame may be said to rest. These exquisite pictures of the manners and customs of a past age, freely interspersed with glowing descriptions of the bold romantic scenery of Scotland, enriched by traditions that still cling to many a noted spot or ruin, rank amongst the choicest treasures of English literature. The lapse of nearly half a century has confirmed the favourable verdict with which they were at first received; and amid changes of taste and new systems of poesy, these charming productions maintain their superiority, and are still sought for and studied by all classes of the community.

London, May 30, 1857.

G. H. T.

[ocr errors]




A Poem.


"Dum relego, scripsisse pudet; quia plurima cerno, Me quoque, qui feci, judice, digna lini."







THE Poem now offered to the Public is intended to illustrate the customs and manners, which anciently prevailed on the Borders of England and Scotland. The inhabitants, living in a state partly pastoral and partly warlike, and combining habits of constant depredation with the influence of a rude spirit of chivalry, were often engaged in scenes highly susceptible of poetical ornament. As the description of scenery and manners was more the object of the Author, than a combined and regular narrative, the plan of the ancient metrical romance was adopted, which allows greater latitude, in this respect, than would be consistent with the dignity of a regular poem. The same model offered other facilities, as it permits an occasional alteration of measure, which, in some degree, authorizes the changes of rhythm in the text. The machinery also, adopted from popular belief, would have seemed puerile in a poem, which did not partake of the rudeness of the old Ballad, or Metrical Romance.

For these reasons, the Poem was put into the mouth of an ancient Minstrel, the last of the race, who, as he is supposed to have survived the Revolution, might have caught somewhat of the refinement of modern poetry, without losing the simplicity of his original model. The date of the tale itself is about the middle of the sixteenth century, when most of the personages actually flourished. The time occupied by the action is three nights and three days.


THE way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old;
His withered cheek, and tresses grey,
Seemed to have known a better day;
The harp, his sole remaining joy,
Was carried by an orphan boy:
The last of all the Bards was he,
Who sung of Border chivalry;
For, well-a-day! their date was fled,
His tuneful brethren all were dead;
And he, neglected and oppressed,
Wished to be with them, and at rest.
No more, on prancing palfrey borne,
He carolled, light as lark at morn;
No longer, courted and caressed,
High placed in hall, a welcome guest,
He poured, to lord and lady gay,

The unpremeditated lay:

Old times were changed, old manners gone;

A stranger filled the Stuarts throne;

The bigots of the iron time

Had called his harmless art a crime.

A wandering harper, scorned and poor,
He begged his bread from door to door;
And tuned, to please a peasant's ear,
The harp a King had loved to hear."

He passed where Newark's a stately tower
Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower:
The Minstrel gazed with wishful eye-
No humbler resting-place was nigh.

With hesitating step, at last,

The embattled portal-arch he passed,
Whose ponderous grate, and massy bar,
Had oft rolled back the tide of war,

■ Newark Castle on the Yarrow, near Selkirk. The ruins of this old border fortress may still be seen. It was probably built by the first earl of Douglas. This was the birth-place of Anne, first duchess of Monmouth and Buccleuch.

But never closed the iron door
Against the desolate and poor.
The Duchessb marked his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face,
And bade her page the menials tell,
That they should tend the old man well.
For she had known adversity,

Though born in such a high degree;
In pride of power, in beauty's bloom,
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb!

When kindness had his wants supplied,
And the old man was gratified,
Began to rise his minstrel pride:
And he began to talk, anon,

Of good Earl Francis, dead and gone,
And of Earl Walter,d rest him God!
A braver ne'er to battle rode:
And how full many a tale he knew,
Of the old warriors of Buccleuch ;
And, would the noble Duchess deign
To listen to an old man's strain,

Though stiff his hand, his voice though weak,
He thought e'en yet, the sooth to speak,
That, if she loved the harp to hear,

He could make music to her ear.

The humble boon was soon obtained;
The aged Minstrel audience gained.
But, when he reached the room of state,
Where she, with all her ladies, sate,
Perchance he wished his boon denied:
For, when to tune his harp he tried,
His trembling hand had lost the ease,
Which marks security to please
And scenes, long past, of joy and pain,
Came wildering o'er his aged brain-
He tried to tune his harp in vain.
The pitying Duchess praised its chime,
And gave him heart, and gave him time,
Till every string's according glee
Was blended into harmony.

And then, he said, he would full fain
He could recall an ancient strain,

He never thought to sing again.

b Anne, duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, representative of the ancient lords of Buccleuch, and widow of the unfortunate James, duke of Monmouth, who was beheaded in 1685.

• Francis Scott, earl of Buccleuch, father to the duchess.

d Walter, earl of Buccleuch, grandfather to the duchess, and a celebrated warrior,

« AnteriorContinuar »